Portuguese filmmaker Leonor Noivo joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about making a film – Raposa (Reynard) – about anorexia without mentioning the word.
Q: What brought yourself and Patrícia Guerreiro together for this project?
A: We met each other twenty years ago on a feature film called Who Are You? from a Portuguese director (João Botelho, whom we both admire). At that time, we understood there was something about our lives that was going somehow in parallel – we had this kind of way of seeing the world that we recognised in each other and, as the years passed, we started to talk about bringing the subject into a film.
Q: Can you talk about creating the character of Marta and what – perhaps in personal experience – went into her?
A: Marta was a creation based on my own and Patrícia’s experiences, in a time when we were a bit “out” of the world. Marta has a disturbance that the doctors call ‘anorexia’; she lives in a countryside, she wants to deal with the contemporary world but she’s somehow trapped in her thoughts and obsessions, so it’s difficult to deal with it.
Also, I wanted to talk about anorexia without naming it (without saying that word), so for me the “fiction” helped us to put this disturbance in a place that anyone could (somehow and in some point) identify with. In short, everyone has their own little disturbance, we don’t have to name it, we just have to deal with it and with each other.
Q: The title, ‘Raposa’, refers to the film’s use of a fox metaphor. Why did you decide to use to use metaphor and this particular animal?
A: “Raposa” is the Portuguese word for fox, reynard. And the fox is a fugitive, cunning and slender, able to camouflage… So, as we didn’t want to name anorexia, it was clear to us that we should have some kind of metaphor for this kind of existence in the world. Then we also created a “red-fox” in some of Marta’s elements: she has red hair and a red wardrobe – for us it started to make sense and at some point the film couldn’t have a different name.
Q: Can you tell us about the visual language of the film and why you chose to use 16mm?
A: The film started to be a more classical documentary (with some interviews and the daily life of other characters that had this disease). In fact, the first 20/30 hours of shooting were in a hospital where there were these six characters, and one of them was Patrícia. I filmed six characters in the hospital, but somehow Patrícia was always the main character. With the others it was more like a traditional interview documentary and somehow it started to feel intrusive.
With Patrícia it was the opposite: every time we were shooting together it was getting more and more interesting for both sides. So, the next step was to spend time with Patrícia outside the hospital, going to the countryside and creating a film with this character (Marta) in her life, finding a point of view distant from the clinic world.
With that step, our instinct was to start something new, in a fictional world. And 16mm made sense in that step. Also, Patrícia shot her first movies on film (35mm and 16mm). We made a pact that this was not a film about me or her, but a film about something we have in common. That is: our age, our disease, our vision of the world, our political view, etc. So filming in 16mm was part of the pact.
Also, of course, the printed image (and the organic end of reels, for example) gives us the perfect texture for the subject. This started to be possible from the day we had some money to do it – money came late in the process as the first years we shoot with no money and were filming between other jobs. From the moment we had some finance support, we dived into the 16mm.
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
A: Since Patrícia and I wanted to share a feeling and we found in doing this film a way to express this subject that we absolutely need to express – a point of view, a way to live – our hope is that the audience can catch this feeling.
Q: ‘Raposa’ will have its world premiere at FIDMarseille. How special does this feel to be featured at this prestigious festival?
A: It’s the first time I will do a premiere outside of my own country, so I was really surprised the film was selected in FID. It’s a great honour, a privilege, to be part of the selection of this festival that I have admired for so many years.
Q: What is next for you? Any ambitions or plans to share?
A: Currently I’m developing a short-film to shoot next year and, at the same time, I’m collaborating with other directors (Pedro Pinho, João Pedro Rodrigues, Carlos Conceição and others) in different stages of project production on my own production company, Terratreme Films.
Actually, I love to collaborate on other people’s films. I think filmmaking is about the collective process, that’s why – for me – it’s so passionate.